Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Halloween Movie Fest 2019)
There are many franchises in the slasher sub-genre, but does it get much more iconic than John Carpenter's landmark debut of the cold killing machine Michael Myers?
"It was the Boogeyman ... As a matter of fact it was."
Picking up on all Carpenter's stylistic flourishes in addition to watching Halloween in HD, dramatically enhanced my experience with this horror classic that I only saw once before on VHS. The story is simple, the young psychotic Michael Myers is committed after murdering his teenage sister on Halloween night. And then escapes from an institution 15 years later to wreak havoc on his home town once again on Halloween night.
How can you begin a conversation about Halloween, and not start with that chillingly simple piano theme mixed with synth from Carpenter. I noticed the score has three central melodies, that seemingly would sound repetitive, but do not come off that way since they are used so effectively to build tension. There is no more clear of a symbol for Halloween night than a Jack-O-Lantern, and I love how the movie starts with the theme song and slowly zooms into this simple looking pumpkin, to transport us to the Halloween night of the movie.
While many slasher movies primarily focus on the generic soon to be victim teenagers, Halloween begins by bringing us into the point of view of a killer, as we hear him slowly breathing behind his mask, as he makes his way up the stairs to his unsuspecting sister. The shot of him in the clown costume is a bit of a gut punch, since this is the one time you see him actually look like a human being with that bewildered look on his face, and holding that ridiculously big kitchen knife.
When this movie came out no one knew who Michael Myers was, so I like how they refer to him as the bogeyman, because he truly embodies the fear of that lurking presence. I think if this came out today, people might complain that Myers has no character, but for me that is why he is frightening. He is this massive man in a mask that instinctually stalks and kills people. The way we often see him lurking during the beginning in this perfect fall setting of a town in Illinois, reminded me of a similar scene from that movie 'It Follows'.
I got such a kick out of the fact that the scary movie Jamie Lee Curtis and the kid she is babysitting sit down to watch was 'The Thing from Another World', since John Carpenter went on to Direct one of the greatest remakes ever from this film.
While I think this is a very special horror movie, there are a few parts that I was not as into. I found my mind wandering each time Loomis comes up and starts spewing exposition. Especially that scene towards the beginning when they seem to be driving in the dark for a while, before they get to the institution to find that Michael has escaped. Then he is pretty much pointless for the middle of the movie as he hangs out at the Myers' old house, and keeps warning the cops to get ready. Then he conveniently makes his way into the climax, in order to shot Michael. But I love how the movie suddenly ends when Michael vanishes from the spot where he fell out of a window moments earlier, before cutting to the end credits.
"I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil."
I was also underwhelmed by the scenes where the teens are getting killed off. But then in a flash, it goes from being kind of lame to fantastic when he goes after Jamie Lee Curtis. The scene where he is trying to get to her in the closet is my favorite moment of the film. When thinking about it afterwards, I realized what makes Halloween so special is that you can instantly relate to this horror movie, since it is about a young woman that gets attacked by a killer while buddled up on a couch watching a scary movie, just like many of the people watching.
"It's Halloween; everyone's entitled to one good scare."
I am not the biggest fan of slasher films, but this landmark entry in the genre is elevated by how well it is made, along with the meta aspect. The only other film in the franchise I have seen is the Rob Zombie remake of the original, so I am looking forward to diving into the rest of this franchise to see Michael Myers' progression over the past few decades.
Thanks for reading.
Happy Halloween movie watching ... BOO!